If you're looking for a new Torontonian band to obsess over, you've just found it. The Lying Cheats are bringing a dirty, raw garage rock sound back to the rock & roll scene in the city and they've got the tunes to prove it. Fronted by husband and wife duo Ken Kelley and Rachel Gassi, the group was formed living in Vancouver in 2008. Upon return to their home of Toronto they formed a quintet with brother, Ryan Gassi (drums), Rob Stephen (bass) and Gabe Kong (guitar) and started exploring the sounds of the "60's punk/garage scene with 80's blues overtones and a hint of spaghetti western soundtracks, resulting in cacophonous, dirty garage rock with nicely layered guitars," as Gassi explains it. All I can say is after listening to their EP Dirty Look, Dirty Face, which was produced by the ultra-rock'n'roll Ian Blurton (C'mon), is that she definitely hit the nail on the head.
|The Lying Cheats, live at Clinton's late 2012|
Kelley has been a friend of mine for a few years now and had been telling me over and over that I needed to hear his new band. Kelley's been giging around the city of Toronto and abroad for years as a very talented guitar player and vocalist, but had only really seen him play while subbing with my boyfriends bands, which are mostly soul, funk and classic rock inspired. So when he told me that he had just finished recording with Ian Blurton (and I was a C'mon fan), I was pleasantly surprised to hear that Kelley and the other Lying Cheats were writing the style of music that they do. I finally stopped slacking and recently one evening I threw Dirty Look, Dirty Face as I was getting ready for a night on the town; it turned out to be the perfect soundtrack to my red lipstick/cigarette-in-mouth/let's-tear-this-shit-up mentality and I was hooked instantly. The EP begins with the hard-hitting 'Lovin' On Me', which sets the tone for what the Lying Cheat's are all about and slaps your senses like a red-hot cinnamon candy heart. It's a little Jack White, a little Jesus & Mary Chain, a little 90's shoe-gaze, a little rockabilly. The combination proves to be both delicious and dangerous in all the best ways.
Tunes like Signs, Every Night and Dying Night show that the pairing of the 'Cheats with Blurton is a match made in heaven; and perhaps it was even fate. I asked Gassi how it all came together."Ken met Blurton while he was guitar teching at the Sleepwalk Guitar Festival in fall of 2011," she tells me. "They were having a smoke and they started talking about garage rock. Ken jokingly asked Blurton if he'd produce our record, and after he realized Ken actually knew his garage rock, he gave us a listen and said yes."
In May 2012, Blurton asked the duo if they would jump on the opportunity to be the last band to ever record at Chemical Sound Recording Studio before they closed their doors, which officially closed as of February 2012. "[Chemical Sound had great] vintage gear, particularly a classic Neve board that Blurton really wanted for us," Kelly says, "So, of course we said yes." The six-song EP was also mixed by Blutron, engineered by Jay Sadlowski and mastered by Joao Carvalho; quite a powerful team behind a powerful EP. 'Here's Some Rope' is one of my favorites in the bunch; a haunting song title for a haunting vocal performance by Kelley. And the big closer 'Cowboys' is the perfect riding-off-into-the-sunset track for the EP in general, and will only make you want more! I had the opportunity to ask Kelley and Gassi a few more q's for some a's:
While traveling in Vancouver, at what point was it when you two decided to start The Lying Cheats? Have you two always played music together?
Rachel: We probably spent about 6 months in Vancouver before we decided to start playing. We had no money, we couldn't afford our rent and couldn't afford to go out so Ken said that we should start a band. We rented a space and Ken played drums and I played guitar and it sucked but we had a lot of fun. Ken was also working at a studio so it was easy for us to demo our songs, none of which we kept. Even though we weren't back in Toronto we had already fantasized about having Ryan, Rob and Gabe in the band, and as soon as we came home we wrote some new songs and asked them to join.
Before that we didn't really play together. When we first met we were working in a restaurant. I was playing with a bunch of girlfriends for fun and I had just bought myself a Les Paul. Ken wasn't playing at all. But Ken and I kinda liked eachother so I asked him to give me some guitar lessons in exchange for cupcakes.
When and where did either of you play your very first show ever and with what band?
Ken: I played the Stardust in Port Credit and the band was called Grl Cough.
Rachel: My first show was actually was actually a Lying Cheats show and it was at the Gladstone. It was a great start.
Rachel – what’s it like being in a band with your brother AND your husband?
Rachel: Terrifying, but fun. They are both so talented and have worked so hard and I'm nowhere near their level. I find being in a band with my brother scarier than being in a band with Ken. But they're both supportive and we have a lot of fun. Ryan's good at calming me down before shows. I get really nervous.
What inspired the sound behind The Lying Cheats?
A lot of stuff. When we started we wanted to sound like a mix of the Kinks and Jesus and Mary Chain but we've changed a bit since then. We definitely wanted to have the spaghetti western guitars in the mix.
The EP having been produced by Ian Blurton seems like a match made in heaven; how was recording at Chemical Sound and being the last band to ever record there?
It was a mix of sadness and happiness. It was a great studio and the guys who ran it were really good guys who knew their shit. There's something poignant about being the last band to play in that room as it was, and with Blurton who's had such a long history with the studio. We're all proud to have done it there and that the band and studio suited each other so perfectly. It seemed like a nice finale, from our perspective.
I absolutely loved the album – I want to describe it as 60’s garage rock meets 90’s shoegaze meets a Quintin Terintino movie soundtrack. If you could re-do the soundtrack for any film, what would it be?
Hang em' High with Clint.
What’s next on the sched for you guys?
Finishing our full length and getting back in the studio with Blurton.
Favorite record of all time?
Impossible to answer. There's so much.
Favorite venue in Toronto to play?
The Bovine. We've been playing there a lot lately and it seems to suit us. We have a lot of fun.
Favorite Torontian band?
Odonis Odonis is cool. Just discovered them. Tarantüela is awesome too.
Best concert you’ve ever been to?
We both agree on Blonde Redhead at the Opera House for the Misery is a Butterfly tour. They played amazing and that's where we both saw each other for the first time, even though we didn't actually meet till later. We also saw the Flaming Lips at the Molson Amphitheatre shortly after our son was born and they were great too.
Why should people listen to The Lying Cheats EP ‘Dirty Look Dirty Face’?
Cause we're nice.
Can we expect new Lying Cheats tunes in the near future?
Yes. In fact we're already playing a lot of the new album at our shows. We're aiming to have the LP done for the summer.